The Pacific Coast Highway (also known as Highway One) has long been one of the most notable road trip destinations in the country. Running along the Pacific Ocean for nearly 700 miles from Mendocino County to Orange County, it passes some seriously amazing views and outdoor destinations.
For those looking for some tried and true spots to get out and stretch their legs on your California Road Trip, these are the best hikes you can find along the PCH.
These awesome hikes near Monterey are a fantastic way to see the sights on your way down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Monterey Bay Coastal Trail
Start your PCH hiking trip near The Sanctuary Beach Resort, located on the beautiful shores of Monterey Bay. Nearby, the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation trail runs for 18 miles along the water. The walk can take you to famous local spots like Pacific Grove, Castroville, and Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Marina State Beach
Down the beach from The Sanctuary Beach Resort, Marina State Beach offers some of the best hikes within striking distance of the Pacific Coast Highway. The trails go along the water, and up high over coastal bluffs, offering breathtaking views. Adventurous travelers can also come here for hang gliding and other adventure sports.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
You have to pass under the highway to find one of the best hikes near the PCH, and in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. After crossing under the road from the park’s lot, take the breezy Waterfall Trail along McWay Creek to a hidden waterfall, with a route that includes sunny passes and ocean overlooks along the way.
Big Sur and South
You’ve seen photos of Big Sur. With these beautiful walks, you can experience the majestic destination for yourself.
Heading south down the PCH from Monterey, there’s a lot of nature to discover, and an exceptionally wide variety in Big Sur. Ewoldsen Trail is just east of Highway One, and takes you through the area’s old growth redwood forest with panoramic outlooks of the ocean and canyon. The 4.5-mile trail is doable for most hikers.
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
Working further south from Big Sur in the direction of Santa Barbara, you’ll find a series of other exciting hikes along the PCH around San Luis Obispo. The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery offers a unique walk along 3.2 miles of boardwalk trails that lead to observation points where you can see huge elephant seals in their natural habitats.
Morro Strand Trail
Another great trail near Highway One and San Luis Obispo, Morro Strand Trail leads to Morro Rock, which is a nearly 600-foot tall mass of volcanic rock along the ocean. This four-mile round trip hike begins along a coastal wetland in Morro Bay along the coast to the rock face with gorgeous views all along the way.
America’s Riviera is home to stunning hikes near the Pacific Coast Highway.
Continuing further along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll soon hit Santa Barbara, which is a beautiful coastal city often referred to as the American Riviera. Make a home base at Hotel Milo and enjoy the area’s many great hikes, like Gaviota Peak, which is along the PCH north of the city, offering mountaintop views just a mile from the ocean.
The Romero Canyon Trail will give you some of the best insights into Santa Barbara and its natural local environment. The first couple of miles go throw shady creek-beds, and then you come up to an overlook of Montecito and the pacific Ocean. It’s a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers.
Inspiration Point is the destination of Santa Barbara’s Jesusita Trail, and it’s one of the most popular lookouts in town. Hike up here for views from nearly 2,000 feet above the city. You can take a shorter jaunt up to this awesome point by taking the Tunnel Trail as well.
South of Santa Barbara
Between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, you’ll find sagebrush-dusted mountains with sweeping beach views.
Heading south from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, Ventura County offers some gorgeous stop-offs for hikes and fun in the sun. One of our favorite stops here is Sandstone Peak, which offers the highest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,114 feet. This is definitely one of the best and most rewarding hikes you can find along the PCH.
Near Santa Monica
The City of Angels, and the beachy enclave of Santa Monica, are home to a surprisingly large network of hikes. Here are a few of our favorite hikes near Santa Monica.
Malibu Creek State Park
Once you get all the way down to Los Angeles County, you’ll find plenty of great hikes and a comfortable place to rest your head at Santa Monica’s Ambrose Hotel. On your way there, stop at Malibu Creek State Park, which is stocked with numerous trails through Malibu Creek Canyon with some great bouldering throughout.
North of Santa Monica, the Pacific Palisades is home to some of the most gorgeous Los Angeles mansions and some beautiful coastal hikes. Paseo Miramar will take you five-miles round trip with views sweeping from the Pacific Ocean, to Catalina Island, to Downtown Los Angeles.
Los Liones Trail
Topanga State Park is one of the most popular outdoor destinations for residents of Los Angeles County, and sprawling trails like the Los Liones are a big reason why. The seven-mile hike can be extra challenging in the summer months, but a towering peak that provides views of the surrounding park makes it well worth the workout.
Rustic Canyon Trail
Jumping off from Will Rogers State Park, the five-mile Rustic Canyon Trail crosses scenic creaks, rugged trails, and an abandoned ranch founded by Nazi sympathizers in the 1930’s. Past this strange stop off, a peak gives amazing views of the surrounding Rustic Canyon to cap off your day.
Mishe Mokwa Trail
One our last and most treasured hiking trails near the Pacific Coast Highway, the Mishe Mokwa Trail is a 3.5-mile experience right in The Hotel Ambrose’s own Santa Monica. The walk is a lovely journey through chaparral shrubland with views of local attractions like Carlyle Canyon and Balanced Rock along the way.